Throughout the offseason, Minkah Fitzpatrick and other Steelers coaches have floated the desire to move him around more heading into his second year with the team. Fitzpatrick had an incredible season with the team but over the last eight weeks, QBs simply stopped throwing the ball anywhere near him in centerfield. Even Fitzpatrick expressed the hope to move around a bit. And while DBs coach Tom Bradley acknowledged the team will line him up in different spots, he says his focus is on keeping Fitzpatrick as the man in the middle.
“Formations are going to dictate a lot of different things that we do with him,” Bradley told reporters via the team website. “But one of things that you always try to do in football is get your guys in position that they do their best things. One of things he does, where he’s really good, is playing centerfield and being around the ball and doing all of those things. And so, we do have the capability to move him, put him in different spots. A lot of times formations will dictate that. Motions. Adjustments. But we’d like to keep him in centerfield.”
Fitzpatrick was miscast as a box player in Miami, that’s the reason why he wanted out, but the Steelers may still be finding that balance between playing him as the post safety while still letting him make high-impact plays.
According to our defensive charting, Fitzpatrick lined up as the team’s strong safety on just 25 snaps, or 2.8% of his 2019 total with Pittsburgh. He spent almost all his time patrolling centerfield. After picking off five passes in his first seven games following the Miami trade, QBs knew to stay away from #39’s airspace.
After recording 4 INTs in six games, Minkah Fitzpatrick was targeted just twice over his final eight weeks. Offenses simply stopped throwing the ball anywhere near him.
That's the definition of a "no fly zone." What a trade by Kevin Colbert. #Steelers
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) January 6, 2020
Bradley is correct that Fitzpatrick will be the team’s free safety and play the majority of snaps there. Doing anything else would be foolish. It would take away from his ball skills, processing, and hands, not to mention there’s no one else well-trusted to play that spot. But hopefully the team can get a little more creative now that he isn’t joining the team on the fly. Bradley also praised Fitzpatrick’s tape study and work ethic as reasons to believe he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.
“If you watch him practice every day, he’s one of those guys that tries to get better every day. He’s not satisfied and he’s always looking for those little edges. And you watch how he goes about his day-to-day business, his work ethic when he’s on the field, when he’s off the field, the way he conditions his body. He’s a guy that’s a consummate professional and always working to get better.”